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High commodity prices lure double-crop farmers — Survey

Nearly three of every 10 farmers with experience growing wheat and soybeans in one season say they will sow more winter wheat this fall, said a Purdue University poll on Tuesday. The practice, known as double-cropping wheat and soybeans, would mean larger wheat production in the United States and would help buffer the disruption in world food supplies created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The shift toward increasing wheat acreage is likely the result of the expected profitability improvement of the wheat/double-crop soybean rotation,” wrote Purdue economists James Mintert and Michael Langemeier, who oversee the Ag Economy Barometer.

The barometer, a gauge of farmer confidence, is based on a monthly survey of large-scale farmers and ranchers.

Russia and Ukraine are two of the largest wheat suppliers to the international market. Millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain are stranded in storage bins by a Russian blockade of Black Sea ports. Food-deficit countries in North Africa and the Middle East ordinarily are regular importers of wheat from the Black Sea region.

“Approximately 30% of the respondents to this month’s survey said they have used a wheat/double-crop soybean crop rotation at some time in the past,” wrote Mintert and Langemeier. “Twenty-eight percent of the producers who have experience with a wheat/double-crop soybean rotation said they plan to increase the percentage of their farms’ cropland devoted to this rotation by planting more wheat in fall 2022.”

The size of the potential expansion was not explicit. Since 1998, about 11% of U.S. winter wheat seedings were followed by double-crop soybeans, or around 4.5 million acres of soybeans a year, said economists Vince Smith and Joe Glauber in an American Enterprise Institute paper this week.

“Wheat and soybean prices are at record highs,” said Smith and Glauber. “Thus, U.S. producers have strong incentives to double crop wheat and soybeans where the practice is feasible.” Plantings of double-crop soybeans are the largest during periods of high prices.

The Purdue survey was “an interesting indicator and it sounds like we will see more wheat,” said Glauber.

“Wheat-double-crop-soybeans are currently projected to be more profitable than corn and soybeans,” said a group of university economists at the farmdoc daily blog in mid-May. “Farmers will consider these expectations as they make planting decisions for 2023.”

Farmers will sow winter wheat this fall for harvest next summer. They planted 34.4 million acres of winter wheat for harvest this year.

President Biden described American farmers as “the breadbasket of democracy” last month while announcing three steps to encourage double crops and larger farm production. The White House said it would make crop insurance available for double-cropping in an additional 681 counties, raising the total to 1,935 counties “so more American farmers have the financial security they need to start or expand double cropping.”

The administration also would double, to $500 million, a grant program to expand independent fertilizer production on the United States and streamline the application process for farmers seeking expert advice and cost-share funds to adopt precision agriculture techniques for more efficient use of fertilizer, seeds and pesticides.

With farmers burdened by rising input costs and expecting high inflation to continue, Purdue said the barometer fell to a reading of 99 during May, its lowest level in two years.

The Ag Economy Barometer is based on a telephone survey of 400 operators with production worth at least $500,000 a year. Producers were contacted from May 16-20. USDA data say the largest 7.4% of U.S. farms top $500,000 in annual sales. The barometer has a margin of error of plus or minus 5%.

The Ag Economy Barometer is available here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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